Horsham YMCA required extra time to move into the third round of the Peter Bentley League Cup on Tuesday as they came from behind to beat division-lower Crawley Down Gatwick.
Trailing 3-1 at the break, a much-improved hosts fought back following the restart and after equalising late on to force a further 30 minutes at the end of normal time, to then set up a home tie with Hassocks in the next round.
Manager Peter Buckland said: “I’m really pleased with the result, but more importantly the response. It proved to me that they are a really good bunch of players that care and they went out and did the club proud in the second half.
“We’re still in a cup, which is good and gives us something other than the league to focus on, without too much commitment.”
Seven former YM players lined up for the visitors under ex-assistant manager Paul Cooper, now in charge of the Anvils, and they put their old side to the sword during an impressive first-half display.
Luke Donaldson’s 11th-minute header was immediately cancelled out by Gatwick striker Oli Leslie, before Ben Brooker put the visitors in front and Harry Lowe’s 25-yard thunderbolt made it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time.
A rejuvenated YM looked a different side after the break and Dan Pollard headed Luke Gedling’s corner home unmarked at the far post four minutes into the half.
A missed Dan Sullivan penalty and a plethora of squandered chances frustrated the hosts, and their dominance was not rewarded until three minutes from time, when substitute Nick Sullivan half-volleyed home from eight yards.
In extra-time, YM re-took the lead when a neat turn and low strike from the edge of the area saw Sullivan double his tally for the evening.
YM’s passage into the next round was confirmed two minutes later, as Sam Schaaf fired past the stranded Andy Greaves from 25 yards.
Buckland concluded: “I had to do something that I don’t often do and really rip into the players at half-time, because I felt that they needed a wake-up call. We were playing on reputations and were just not putting a shift in.”
“We weren’t working hard enough. But I said to the players that if we pressed them, even though we were 3-1 down, we would win the game. And to be fair, in the second half alone, without the extra time, we had enough opportunities to win three games of football.
“But it was tough. They were a very good side, who were well disciplined. It shows that they’ve been together for a while now and it was nice to see some of the lads back down here, it really was. I’m not just saying that after a victory.
“We really had to work for it and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see them back in the Premier Division next year.”
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood, D.Sullivan, Gathern, Pollard (Zydonik 97), Evans, Gedling, Dugdale, Hibbert, Donaldson, Wright (N.Sullivan 68), Schaaf. Unused subs: Fox, Crane, White.